When the Lord called me to be a shepherd, I was told to feed his sheep. I thought I knew pretty well what that meant. I was to bring them to the good water where they could drink. I was to bring them to the good pastures where they could graze. I was to watch out for wild animals and to keep them from falling off cliffs and into brambles which they are inclined to do.
Others are also working with my sheep One man came by and said that if I gave him just a little fleece from each of the sheep, he would tell me how to best organize them. It seemed a small price to pay for some good advice so I agreed. He said that it was a mistake to keep all the sheep together in one pen. I needed to divide them into groupings of similar sheep. That would of course involve building separate pens for each group, and an assistant shepherd to help keep an eye on them. If I did this, the sheep would like it better and my overall flock would increase.
A second man came by a few months later. He said that for a similar price of some fleece from the sheep, he could give me more up to date advice. He was a shepherd consultant, he said. He asked many questions. How many sheep did I have? What ages were they? He said that was important because each generation of sheep is different and the shepherds need help in noticing these things. He wanted to know how many sheep I had in previous years. This was so he could estimate how quickly the flock would grow. After getting all of this information he put it into a computer data base and produced some remarkable graphs. His suggestion was that I needed to bring in a water source from the water utility and that I should build a barn for storing the food for the sheep. He had sample water and sample hay from some of the largest providers. Now, I would have to pay for this service with a little more fleece from each sheep, but it would be much more efficient than the antiquated shepherd techniques I was using. This seemed like a good idea.
One month later a third man came by. He said that what I had been doing was good, but there was one part I had missed. I had not considered the shepherd. He showed me some pictures of different shepherds and how they did their shepherding. He pointed out that the shepherds who were like me tended to have smaller flocks of contented sheep, and the flock growth while significant was smaller than others. He then pointed out three shepherds who had the largest flocks with the most contented sheep. Their flocks grew faster than anyone else’s. The only trouble was that I was not that kind of shepherd.
I said, “but the Lord called me to this job.”
“Yes,” he said, “but it takes more than a calling and standard shepherd skills to do the kind of shepherding that really excels.”
“Should I quit?” I asked.
“No, just give me another small portion of fleece from each sheep, and I will show you how to become like one of the big flock shepherds.”
So for the next month he showed me all the new ways to shepherd sheep.
I found over time there were many helpful men such as this who had shepherd training to offer. One sold better shears. Another had better songs to sing while lulling the sheep to sleep. Others kept lists of types of wolves, and better designs for sheep pen building.
After many years of listening to these shepherd trainers, this is what happened. Because each one had asked for a little fleece, my sheep where without any fleece. I had to quickly build a large modern sheep barn with automated water and feed, as well as a heat source to help the fleece-less sheep weather the winter. The only way I could pay for this was to keep shearing the sheep and using the fleece to pay for the overhead.
I have since decided to leave them in the care of hired help
I have taken all the things I had learned and began to go to other shepherd’s fields to share my knowledge. I am such a better shepherd than I once was, that I decided to join the band of traveling shepherd teachers. Did I mention that I am paid better than before? Now that I work regular hours, I have taken up some hobbies when I am not working on my book. The Shepherds Network is giving me an award, and a trip to New Zealand to study Southern Hemisphere Sheep Herding in the 21st Century.
Sheep operations are an amazing sight these days. The sheep, as they are constantly fleeced all look alike, Without any fleece, only the numbered tag on their ears can identify them. It does bother me sometimes that I no longer know their names, but who can argue with progress?
©David E. Carlson 2000